dog sticking its tongue out

ducks on Rum River

I’ve been obsessively writing for a few weeks. I’ve entered a secret world of words that I can get lost in for hours. Picture some kind of matrix scene where probes are attached to my head and I’m twitching and people are shaking me and yelling, “Maery! Maery! Wake up!”

Okay. It’s not quite that dramatic. Still,  I do have to force myself to get up and go ride my horse or walk the dogs or (gasp!) clean the house. Do something to break the spell for awhile.

dog sitting by the river

I’ve been visiting people through my writing that I haven’t seen for quite awhile – some because they live faraway, some because they’ve died, and some because our lives have taken different roads and we’ve lost touch.

It’s been bittersweet, this trip down memory lane. It’s been fun reminiscing about family gatherings and old traditions, things I might have forgotten if I hadn’t written them down in such detail. Not all the memories are pleasant, but I learn valuables things from them. With the distance of time comes some wisdom and peace.

dog walk in the snow

But thank goodness for dogs that visit my desk, place their noses on my lap, and if that doesn’t work, bark at me or squeak a toy that they carry in their mouths. They draw me outside to sunshine, powder snow, and a nippy breeze.

It’s a return to the living and the now and the simplicity of a moment in time when all that’s asked of me is to move my feet, one step in front of the other.

That’s all it takes to make my dogs happy. And maybe that’s all it takes for me too.

dog sticking its tongue out

dog walk in the snow

dog walk in the snow

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon. I’ve had nine days off from work and am trying not to ruin the one remaining day by thinking about going back to work tomorrow.

Late this morning, Steve and I did our run to church, Costco (creating a lunch out of free samples) and the Avant Garden coffee shop for coffee and a scone. I’m now finishing up the remaining coffee at my desk before Steve and I head out for a winter walk with the dogs.

dog walk in the snow

It’s getting to that end of year time when we start to think about another year gone by. We wonder what next year will be like and what we want it to be like. What do we need to do or change to make next year better than this year?

dog walk in the woods

But I don’t know, 2015 was pretty good.

Steve and I had fun with our first overnight bike touring experience last June. I want to do it again in 2016, only maybe a two night stay, or I could see doing an even longer trip if we could find dog care and figure out a route that we and our non-touring bikes could handle.

bike tour

 

The train trip to Oregon we took in late September-early October and the time we spent exploring that state was amazing! It may be awhile before we can take another trip that grand.

Mt Hood

Another year!

2015 was an expensive year for me with surgery on Luke’s eye and all the followup medications and doctor appointments. Luke’s doing very well but it will take me awhile to recuperate financially from that experience.

But still, it’s been interesting the changes that have come about because of the demands of Luke’s care.

I was getting really sour on the whole horse thing. I missed the friends I used to ride with and the trail rides we went on. Riding had turned to drudgery and loneliness rather than enjoyment, so I was only going out to the barn two to four times a month. I was thinking about trying to find another home for Luke and focus my life on other things.

But suddenly, I had to go to the barn almost every day to check on Luke. Once Luke was feeling okay, I wasn’t going to the barn every day, but I was still going there three to four times a week to keep tabs on him and to ride.

horseback riding

Somehow, the time I spent with Luke reminded me what horses (especially this horse) have meant to me. No one at the new barn we’re at has become my “riding buddy,” but I rarely ride alone. The enjoyment of being around horses and horse people is gradually coming back for me. And once again, I plan to conquer my fear of backing up my trailer so I can go trail riding (even if it’s by myself) during trail riding season. I know I’ve had this plan before, but something inside me says that next year, I’ll follow through.

Because I’ve had a reminder that things happen. Live now.

Don’t put those dog walks and coffee with friends off until tomorrow or next month — when you’ll have time. You’ll NEVER feel like you have enough time. But, really, you do.

dog walk in snow

You make time for what’s important.

I’ve been busy writing a couple hours a day, which is why I took a week off from work, to build up a good head of steam. I resisted the urge to put in more daily writing time, as I just wanted to get a rhythm going and avoid stressing and burning out.

I’m close to having a full rough draft put together. About the only thing I’m not sure of is how to end the story. But for now, I just need to get it together good enough to apply for a manuscript workshop that is only accepting four people. My application has to be in by January 11th. I should have a decent outline and goals put together by then plus a couple chapter samples to mail in.

If I don’t get into the workshop, that’s okay as I’ll have that draft pulled together and I’ll look for another way of working on the revision.  But being a part of that workshop for five months would be super helpful.

I think this is the first year that I’ve ended with a feeling that I did a lot of what I wanted to do in the past year. I don’t think that’s because I was more productive this year. In fact, I think it’s because I was less productive and took more time for having fun.

dog walk in the snow

It finally snowed here!

dog walk in the snow

fat biking

dog

front door

The great thing about traveling is being in an unfamiliar environment where you see and experience things you don’t normally see at home.

So one would think that the good thing about coming home would be the familiarity and the comfort and convenience found there. Which is why I was surprised to find that when I came home, things actually looked different.

When you open the door to a house, the first thing you might notice is the home’s unique smell. Sometimes it’s a good smell, like cinnamon or cookies. Other times, it’s an old smell or a wet dog smell, which is bad or good, depending on how you feel about old things and wet dogs. When I walked into my house, it just smelled stale.

I started walking up the wood stairs, my foot steps echoing, as though the house was empty. Since it is actually filled with furniture and things, and I’ve walked into my house a million times and never noticed an echo, this was weird. And as I walked across the wood floor in the living room and kitchen, the boards actually creaked. Weird again.

I’m sure there’s some sort of scientific reason for this – the house drying out because no one is running water, cooking, or breathing – but let me go with my more “woo woo” theory. I think that a house that hasn’t been lived in for awhile sounds and feels empty, no matter how much stuff is inside it, because you need people to give the house a soul.

There’s one other thing that my house needs — and that’s dogs.

dog

As soon as I put down my suitcase, I was grabbing my keys to go pickup Java and Latte from the kennel. Once we were at the kennel and I settled my bill, one of the employees brought my two dogs into the lobby. They looked a little dazed and confused, unsure of how to react to Steve’s and my sudden appearance on the scene. But when we went out to my Mini Cooper and I started opening the hatch to let the dogs jump into the back, they made a dash for the car before I had a chance to fully open it. Java bumped her head, but didn’t seem to notice.

In the car, they were  enthusiastically on familiar ground. Driving home, Latte alternated between sniffing the air coming through the car window, and putting her head between the front seats for a reassuring pat. Java simply rested her head on Steve’s shoulder.

dog

dog

When we got back home, I let the dogs out into the backyard, where they checked every corner for familiar and unfamiliar scents. I started unpacking, sorting clothes to throw into the wash, and taking a very welcome shower.

The house was no longer echoing or creaking.

We took Java and Latte on a walk to Kings Island. It’s our usual dog walk – out towards and then along the Mississippi River. I often long for another route, something new to see – I want to experience a feeling of discovery and adventure. But somehow, on this walk, I felt that. Everything looked fresh to my eyes. I started to feel how lucky I was to have the river so close by and be able to take walks like these. No, it wasn’t as cool as some of the walking paths in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it was home.

walking dog

And the dogs? They never see this walk as the same-old-same-old. Every time they take a walk, there are different smells, different people, different dogs and different squirrels to see. Every walk is a unique experience — lived without any expectation of how it should be or what it should include.

Once again, my dogs have taught me something valuable… Look with fresh eyes at where you are, even if it’s the same old place you were yesterday, not expecting it to be different, but not assuming it will be the same. Any maybe it is never the same — not because “it” has changed but because you have.

dog

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